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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: October 3, 2017

In two photo shows, the lens is on ancient Maine and Montenegro

Written by: Bob Keyes
"Humpback Whale, Upwelling" by Jonathan Levitt. Photos courtesy of Jonathan Levitt

“Humpback Whale, Upwelling” by Jonathan Levitt. Photos courtesy of Jonathan Levitt

Two photo exhibitions opening this week in Portland and Buxton explore different kinds of exotic and evocative landscapes.

Jonathan Levitt of Lincolnville shows photographs from his book, “Mawooshen: Life and Landscape of the Maritime Archaic,” at PhoPa Gallery, 132 Washington St., Portland. His work documents the geography of the Red Paint People, archaic humans who lived on the islands and coastal mountains of Penobscot Bay 5,000 years ago.

"Black Lake" by Courtney Anne Porter. Photo courtesy of Courtney Anne Porter

“Black Lake” by Courtney Anne Porter.
Photo courtesy of Courtney Anne Porter

At the Old White Church, 15 Salmon Falls Road, Buxton, Courtney Anne Porter exhibits images that she captured during a recent three-year residency in Montenegro, a mountainous country on the Adriatic Sea. “Leap of Faith” is Porter’s debut photography exhibition, prompted by interest she received in her photographs that demonstrate the color and drama of the ancient Balkan country. She moved to Montenegro in 2013 when her husband, an officer in the Maine National Guard, was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica.

Both photographers were motivated by their sense of exploration.

"Mermaid Nest" by Jonathan Levitt

“Mermaid Nest” by Jonathan Levitt

Levitt’s interest in ancient lifestyles began many years ago when he did a project for the National Park Foundation and encountered petroglyphs and petrographs. He was fascinated by the images on the rocks and “wished there was something like that here in Maine.”

He encountered the book “Notes on a Lost Flute: A Field Guide to the Wabanaki” by Kerry Hardy and began learning more about the ancient cultures of Maine. That led to a visit to the Maine State Museum in Augusta, where he learned even more.

One of his takeaways was that the landscape of 5,000 years ago wasn’t much different from the landscape of today. “The sea levels are about what we experience now, and the flora was basically what it is now. The fauna was different, because there was more of it. There were more animals, more fish,” he said. “So it looked the same, but it was different.”

The Red Paint People thrived in the area 12,000 years ago, then disappeared. Using a variety of cameras and shooting in color and black and white, Levitt takes pictures “of what I think would have been interesting to someone who was here a long time ago. Good places to camp. Good places to rest. Springs. Places that animals are attracted to, places that animals want to be,” he said.

“I like to go out, usually by myself, in small boats or on foot. I’m going out fishing or looking for mushrooms or looking for something to harvest from the landscape, digging clams or looking for birds and usually photographing while I am out.”

His photographs are quiet and still, and evoke both mystery and beauty. This exhibition samples some of the images from his book. He’s lived in Lincolnville since 2007, a place that he loves deeply. “There is lots of public land here, which is unusual on the coast. There’s variety in the landscape and interesting weather, lots of rivers and lots of kinds of ecosystems in a small place – and a lot of history.”

Porter fell in love with Montenegro soon after she arrived in 2013. Her husband’s stint was two years, and she encouraged him to extend it another six months because she wanted to stay and keep exploring. “It was a unique opportunity to spend an extended period of time in a very interesting place. We had the freedom to do what we wanted to do and spent every weekend doing something different.”

Best known as a dancer and choreographer, Porter sharpened her photography skills while overseas. This is her first exhibition of photography, and she’s nervous about it. “It’s exciting and panicky at the same time,” she said.

 "Belem Porter" by Courtney Anne Porter Image courtesy of the artist

“Belem Porter” by Courtney Anne Porter
Image courtesy of the artist

Porter called Montenegro “uncensored wild beauty. Never forced to be something it’s not, a country true to itself.”

She was drawn by its twisting mountainous roads, roaring waves and the old, crumbling sidewalks of the capital city, Podgorica.

“Montenegro became a country I loved unconditionally,” she said. “There are no Western regulations that subconsciously tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s a place that envelops you and in return you find yourself embracing; seeing through the eyes of a young child before they’re told the correct way to behave. I lived like I was 5 years old while over there.”

Jonathan Levitt – “Mawooshen: Life and Landscape of the Maritime Archaic”

WHERE: PhoPa Gallery, 132 Washington St., Portland,
WHEN: Wednesday to Nov. 11; reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 5; regular hours noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday

Courtney Anne Porter – “Leap of Faith”

WHERE: Old White Church, 15 Salmon Falls Road, Buxton,
WHEN: Opens Friday, continues through Nov. 11; reception 5 to 9 p.m. Friday; open 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and by appointment

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